5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

We’ve just got back from 5 days in Porto. OMG. I’m going to start this post by saying that Porto is brilliant. It’s too good. After our trip there, I haven’t stopped telling everyone I know that they HAVE to go. Porto is in the top 5 cities we’ve ever visited, easily. This blog is going to be a little highlights reel of our 5 days in Porto. We did far too much there to cover everything! Also, we’re not going to include a full guide to eating and drinking in Porto, our day trip to the historical city of Guimarães, or our day in Porto’s neighbouring city, Vila Nova de Gaia. They all deserved their own blog posts.

We arrived in Porto on a warm summer’s evening in August. It was a smooth journey on the metro into the city from Francisco de Sá Carneiro airport (should be hilariously renamed ‘the Airporto’, right? Ha). We stayed in a nice, air-conditioned (very important) apartment, which was central so we could get about easily.

We’d done a lot of research about Porto before going there, most notably on the fantastic O Porto Cool blog (thanks to whoever writes that) but we weren’t prepared for everything we’d love about it.

Here’s some things to do, what to see and day trips if you have 5 days (or more/less) to spend in Porto, Portugal…

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

1. Check out all the gorgeous azulejo tiles

The most striking first impression we had was how incredibly ’tiled’ Porto is. More so even than Lisbon, it seemed. Nearly every building is adorned with beautiful, brightly colourful tiles. Most notable are the glorious azulejo blue and white tiles. Our favourites were on Santa Catarina church near our apartment, but they also feature in the wonderful São Bento train station and the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso.

Also, if you happen to own a blue-and-white tile print dress, you can wear that around Porto and experience a day in the life of a chameleon. Never before has matching my backdrop been so satisfying.

São Bento train station (see below) is absolutely out of this world. Flooded with light from the imposing windows, and tiled floor to ceiling with the most stunning artwork, it’s no wonder that it is always nominated as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. We really liked that it was fully functioning and modern, as well as being pretty and historic. Imagine commuting in/out of that every day!

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

2. Take in Porto’s best views

Porto is a city of vistas.

From the top of the Dom Luís I bridge, to the vantage point near the cathedral, you’re spoilt with views of the Douro river and the classic Portuguese terracotta rooftops stretching out before you.

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

3. Find Porto’s array of street art

We don’t think, in our vast amount of research before going, we’d read anything about street art in Porto. It’s not the kind of thing we’d look up because we’re just not that cool, but it was everywhere, and all really good.

The ‘refugees welcome’ signs all around the centre were particularly brilliant.

Oh, and a giant cat.

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

4. Go on the Porto free walking tour

We did a free walking tour of Porto on our first full day there. This is always the best way to see the main attractions and then you can re-visit the ones you like best in more depth later.

The guide took us on a wander through the main sites, the train station, some churches, Livraria Lello bookshop (nice building but a bit too touristy because it has Harry Potter connections), Maria Pia and Dom Luís I bridges, the cathedral, Ruelas Medievais (ancient cobbled streets) and ended up in Praca da Ribeira, the gorgeous square and world heritage site overlooking the Douro.

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5. Enjoy the beautiful buildings and streets

This is a bit of a vague-sounding thing to do in Porto, isn’t it?

Obviously lots of cities have beautiful buildings and streets.

But I think the pictures below speak for themselves. Colourful, cobbled side streets. The floral facades. Lanterns and bunting overhead. My Instagram took a battering.

Porto has some of the most impressive architecture and idyllic streets. We spent a lot of time just wandering around taking it all in. It helped that it was very sunny – the place just suited being bathed in sunlight.

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

6. Visit Poro’s botanic gardens

The Jardim Botânico do Porto was the perfect place to spend a sunny day.

It’s free and when we went, we were pretty much the only people there, which made it even better! Of particular note was the wonderful blue sea of agapanthus. I’ve never seen so many.

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

7. Have a ride on Porto’s cute vintage trams

We both work in Manchester, UK. It’s a city of decent modern trams, but Porto’s lovely little old trams make ours look like the biggest, ugliest buses you’ve ever seen.

Porto’s trams are historic rather than functional now, and run as a tourist feature, not for the locals to get about on. It was far too hot to cram ourselves into one when we were there, but if you’re in Porto when it’s cooler and less crowded, it isn’t too expensive to have a ride.

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

8. Visit the beaches near Porto

One of the best things about Porto as a city is that it’s coastal, with picturesque beaches a short bus journey from the centre.

We went to Praia da Luz in the Foz district and spent a rather windy afternoon walking along the promenade for miles.

It was gorgeous – helped by stopping for drinks and ice cream at a few of the trendy bars and cafés along the seafront.

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

9. Spend an arty day at Serralves

Our last day was spent in Serralves, a ‘cultural institution’ in Porto. It encompasses a modern art gallery/museum, a large park, and a fantastic art deco style pink villa. All in one place.

It’s sort of like Porto’s answer to a (modern) English country house with parkland, only with a Tate Modern art gallery casually popped in its grounds too. It was about 10 euro each to get into all of it, which was an absolute bargain.

The park is dotted with interesting sculptures, including this absolute whopper of a trowel…

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

10. Eat all of the incredible food in Porto

Okay, I said we wouldn’t go into food and drink on this blog post, because it really does warrant a whole blog of its own. But I can’t not mention it when talking about Porto’s main highlights.

I’ll just pop this one photo in of the filthy-good francesinha. All the food and drink was exceptional, but you’ll have to read our ‘Food and drink in Porto’ post for more.

5 days in Porto: things to do, what to see and day trips | PACK THE SUITCASES

5 days in Porto: useful information

How to get there

We flew to Porto from Manchester airport, which took around two and a half hours. Then when we got there, we got the metro into the city from Francisco de Sá Carneiro airport.

Where to stay

We stayed in a basic, but very clean, air-conditioned apartment on Rue de Santa Catarina, which was very central so we could get about easily.

How to get around

Everything is walkable in the centre, but there are trams that cover further out, including cute historic trams. Getting a train out of São Bento station for a day trip is fantastic.

When to go

We visited in August and the weather was beautiful – not too hot, but warm enough to walk around in summer clothes.

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25 Comments

  1. Of you Walt to know more about Porto street art, go visit the blog and archives of Gail at Large.com
    She took beautiful pictures.

  2. Aww this post takes me back to our Portuguese road trip last year! Porto was Mihir’s favourite and I found it fabulous too. The Azulejos are really the best thing about Portugal. I bought a small “tin” out of Azulejos in one of the shops in Porto and loooove it. Best souvenir to bring back 🙂
    Lovely post! You explored some corners which we missed. I’m now inspired to go back!

    Jacky 🌞

  3. Love your post, beautiful pictures! I just got back from Portugal a few days ago, and for the first time I visited Porto as well! (only ever Lisbon and smaller coastal towns on the West Coast before)
    I completely fell in love with Porto, such a lovely city, I could spend days just wandering through the streets, discovering the coolest spots.
    One of my favourite things was the amazing wine regions that are around Porto. I visited a few quintas in the Douro Valley where the Douro wine and portwine is from – it’s 100km from Porto, but obviously there’s a lot of places in Porto that have all the local wines as well. Sadly i had to miss out on francesinhas as I’m vegan, but everyone told me it was delicious!

  4. Thanks for your blog about Porto! The next time you come here (this is no advertising, of course) got to go eat a francesinha in Cervejaria Brazão, near the Townhall…my favourite one, and the space is beautiful. Good trips and all the best!

    1. Glad you liked the blog – this is an old embarrassing one that I really need to sort out. The images take about a year to load…

      Hope to one day go back to Porto and will bear that in mind. Thank you!

  5. Pingback: Pack The Suitcases’ 2016 travel roundup | PACK THE SUITCASES
  6. Pingback: Pack The Suitcases' 2016 travel roundup | PACK THE SUITCASES

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